You Could Win a $100 Visa Gift Card in Our Financially Savvy Blog Contest!

FinanciallySavvyBlogContestPic

We look forward to hearing about how we’ve helped you become financially savvy throughout the years. Good luck!

*To enter, comment or post a video before the deadline and completely answer the question to qualify. Post your comment or video on or before 5/29/15 at 5pm. Must be 18 years or older to enter. The winner will be randomly selected from the entries received and notified by the Marketing Department on or about 6/1/15. Winner will be able to pick up their gift card in a First Financial branch or receive it via mail. No purchase necessary to enter or claim prize.

How to Choose What Financial Goals are Worth Setting

save-saving-housing-house-money-cash-e1394569718602Everyone needs financial goals in order to be efficient and successful, but determining which goals to prioritize can be difficult. If you don’t set enough goals, you may not save enough money. However, if you set too many goals it can be difficult to achieve all of them, and repeated failure can get you off track.

It’s best to prioritize how important different goals are in terms of the immediate future, as well as your long-term hopes and dreams. Once you know what is the most important to you, you can figure out which goals you should focus on. Survival should be your first priority; you need to pay for your basic needs first. After that, you can focus on longer-term goals. Consider these five questions as you set your next financial goals.

1. Do I need it to survive?

Obviously, you need food and shelter to survive. Your necessities have to come first. This means that you will need to have enough money to pay your rent and utilities, purchase groceries, and receive medical care when you need it. There are other things that may be necessary depending on your personal circumstances. You will probably require a job, and you might need a car to get there. You also will need clothing, so your first goal should be to afford basic necessities. If you can’t do that yet, then your other financial goals need to wait.

2. Is the goal too big or too small?

Setting goals that you can’t possibly achieve will only bring failure, and can potentially make you depressed or frustrated. If you can barely afford rent for your current one-bedroom apartment, you probably shouldn’t make a goal to purchase a four-bedroom home this year. But you can make long-term goals that include purchases you couldn’t possibly make now. Your income should increase as you become more experienced in your job field, and you can certainly make long-term goals that factor in your anticipated income.

You also shouldn’t spend too much time on goals that are really small. While setting some small goals may build your confidence (such as saving for a new dress or suit), setting too many small goals will pull your priority away from bigger goals.

3. How can I achieve my goal?

You can increase your chances of achieving your goal by taking extra steps to make it happen (outside of just making the goal itself). If you want to purchase a house, but you need to save for a down payment, start small. It’s good to start off by setting up a savings plan, finding out if you qualify for assistance, and cutting back on expenses. You don’t have to purchase a home (or a new car, or whatever else your big goal entails) right now. Make a plan for just how you can obtain your goal.

This is also true of other financial goals, such as moving up at work and making more money. If you want to move up, focus on the ways that you can improve your work performance and set yourself up for a promotion. Consider educational classes if necessary. You also might consider relocating if it will help you advance in your career. Taking proactive steps to achieve your dream will help you get there, and also may make you feel more accomplished and on-task.

4. Am I thinking about the future?

Vacations and fancy clothes can be wonderful, but you need to think about your future, too. Besides basic necessities, you should also prioritize your retirement savings. According to the United States Department of Labor, knowing your retirement needs, contributing to your employer’s retirement savings plan, learning about investment principles, considering using an IRA, and knowing about your social security benefits, can all help you plan for retirement.

Complete the necessary research in order to determine how much you might need to retire, and also to determine where you might want to live, which will affect how much money you need. You also need to consider your future health, and how it might impact your finances.

To get more information on planning for your retirement and schedule your complimentary appointment, contact First Financial’s Investment & Retirement Center at 732.312.1564 or email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com.

5. How much time do I need?

This question factors into many of the other questions on this list. One of the best ways to achieve your goals is to set realistic ones, and to figure out when and how you will achieve them. Determine how many years you think it will take you to save enough for the type of home you want, or how much you need to save each year (and for how many years) to be comfortable in retirement. If you want to save for a vacation, consider how you will have to alter your current spending, and for how many months you will have to do so.

Short-term goals often take less planning, but it will still help you to determine how much time you need to achieve those goals. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can save enough for a trip in a few months, but actually sitting down and determining how much you need to save each month, and for how long, will help prevent overspending.

Here at First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams by defining your dream goals and lifestyle, empowering you through financial education, building your wealth, planning your retirement, and managing your risk. Establishing financial goals is an important part of saving enough money, and being ready for the future and we are here for you! Stop into any one of our branches and sit with a representative to have an annual financial check-up for a review of your finances and portfolio. 

Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article source courtesy of Sienna Beard of Cheatsheet.com.

Our Spring 2015 Newsletter is Here!

Our Spring Bi-Annual Newsletter has arrived! In a continued effort to “go green,” we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches in the coming weeks – stay tuned. This Spring “First Edition” newsletter covers some great new topics and talks about some of the exciting events and promotions going on at First Financial for 2015.

The Spring Newsletter Magazine features the following articles:

  • Upcoming First Financial Seminars (May – July 2015)
  • First Click – Remote Deposit Capture Announcement
  • “4 Easiest Ways to Budget” Article
  • Note from the CEO
  • Custom Debit Card Photo Contest Winner & Photo
  • Learn How to Earn Up to $240 a Year When You Open or Upgrade Your First Financial Membership
  • “Could Assumptions Harm Your Retirement Plan?” – IRC Article
  • Custom Debit Card Announcement
  • Popmoney Announcement
  • Financial Tips: Earn More. Save More. Spend Smarter.
  • New Freehold/Howell Service Center Grand Opening & Photo
  • Important information, holidays, phone numbers, and branch locations

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Enjoy!

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this May 2015

family-spring-gardenIt’s finally time to enjoy the outdoors and all that the warm weather has to offer! During the spring and summer, it’s a great idea to visit your local parks and enjoy a bike ride, a family hike, play basketball or even a have a quaint family picnic! It’s free, fun and a great way to stay active and get some fresh air. Check out some more free or inexpensive activities below that you can enjoy this month with your family and friends.

Friday, May 1: First Financial is hosting a Bake Sale & FREE Shred Event at the Freehold/Howell Service Center (389 Route 9 North, Freehold) for Grand Opening Week! Between 9am-11am, bring your items to be shredded by AutoShred. *Limit 5 boxes/bags per person. What can be shredded? Mixed office paper, papers with staples/paperclips, papers with small binder clips and rubberbands. What cannot be shredded? Magazines/newspapers, hardcover books, 3 ring binders, x-rays/MRIs, wet, damp, or mildewed paper. This is a free service, open to the public, and don’t forget to stop in and check out our newest branch location! For more information, call 866.750.0100.

 

 

Saturday, May 2: Head on over to First Financial’s new Freehold/Howell Service Center (Freehold) for a free Grand Opening Family Picnic from 10am-1pm! Bring the whole family to enjoy music, food by Vito’s Hot Dogs and Farley’s Ice Cream, cotton candy, popcorn, games, facepainting, palm readings, special visits from the Howell Police Department, Adelphia Fire Department, blood pressure screenings from the Farmingdale Howell First Aid Squad, and more. For more information, call 866.750.0100.

Saturday, May 2 – Sunday, May 3: Enjoy a Weekend in Old Monmouth (Freehold)! This is an annual two-day event when more than 40 of the Monmouth County history sites open their doors to visitors and waive their admission fees. Please note that a Weekend in Old Monmouth is a self-guided tour, it is encouraged to visit the link above for a printable or online map of the historic sites/locations. The event will take place on Saturday from 10am-5pm and Sunday from 12pm-5pm. For more information, call 732-431-7460 ext. 7413.

Saturday, May 9: It’s Opening Day at Monmouth Park Racetrack (Oceanport)! Enjoy FREE grandstand admission and celebrate the return of everyone’s favorite summertime destination. Come take your picture next our 2015 commemorative sandcastle and enter to win one of 100 VIP season and parking passes for the 2015 season. Gates open at 11:30am and the first race is 12:50pm. For more information, call 732-222-5100.

Saturday, May 9 – Sunday, May 17: Shrek The Musical is coming to Algonquin Arts Theatre (Manasquan)! Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, Shrek The Musical is a TONY Award-winning fairy tale adventure featuring all new songs from Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Caroline or Change) and a sidesplitting book by David Lindsay-Abaire. Shrek brings all the beloved characters you know from the film to life on stage, and proves there’s more to the story than meets the ears, a perfect family outing. For showtimes and tickets, visit the link above or call 732-528-9211.

Saturday, May 9 – Sunday, May 10: Spend some quality time with Mom and Grandma in the vineyard, at 4JG’s Winery (Colts Neck) this Mother’s Day! Join us with Mom and Grandma for a fun day of chocolate demonstrations and wine tastings. Stop by between 12pm-5pm on both days. For more information, call 908-930-8066.

Saturday, May 16: Head on down to Spring Lake’s Irish Festival! From 12pm-4pm, enjoy an Irish soda bread contest, Irish step dancers, live music, food, activities, photo booth, and so much more! You’ll also be able to meet Ray Lucas from the NY Jets and Jeff Feagles, former NY Giants Punter. For more information, call 732-449-0577.

Saturday, May 23 – Monday, May 25: The Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival is back at Monmouth Park Racetrack (Oceanport)! Over three dozen of the areas best food trucks will converge at Monmouth Park for three days of amazing food, family fun, and world-class racing. Enjoy unique varieties of plates including fried bacon, mouth-watering empanadas, juicy cheesesteaks, decadent cupcakes, ocean-fresh lobster rolls, Belgian waffle sundaes, and so much more – there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone! So bring the family, bring the friends, come one day or all three. You won’t want to miss the most delicious summer kick-off party at the Jersey Shore! For more information, call 732-222-5100.

Memorial Day Celebrations:

Friday, May 29 – Sunday, May 31: Red Bank River Fest is back and better than ever! The festival will once again showcase talented local bands performing simultaneously on multiple stages capped by appearances of nationally known blues and jazz artists. Attendees will also be able to enjoy food, vendors, and crafters. For more information, call 732-741-0055.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day!

The Best New Savings Apps for Your Phone

girlphoneSeveral years ago, entrepreneur Yaron Samid noticed a fraudulent charge on his credit card. When he investigated, he found that it had actually been a recurring charge, added to his monthly bill, that he had been paying without even realizing it. He also discovered that other people posted online about the same charge, and he wasn’t the first person to be surprised by it.

His tech background inspired him to start thinking about how people could share information about such fraudulent charges to help protect each other. That concept led him to create BillGuard, an app that has been used by more than 1 million people worldwide since it launched in July 2013. “The app is helping people make sure they’re only paying for what they should be,” says BillGuard spokeswoman Marina Boykis​.

BillGuard is one of several apps to hit the market recently with the goal of ​protecting your finances and saving you money. Other popular ones reduce your parking expenses, help you track spending and help you find discounts and coupons. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular apps, which are all available for both iOS and Android, and how they work:

1. BillGuard. The BillGuard app, using bank-level security, pulls all your transactions from various accounts, and flags ones that might be erroneous, including duplicate charges that have been flagged by other users. You can flag a charge and dispute it with a company directly through the app. When a retailer faces a data breach, BillGuard alerts you if you shopped at the store during the period of the incident.

The app saves people money, Boykis says, because most people quickly skim their account statements – if they review them at all – which makes it easy to miss errors. Last year, BillGuard flagged more than $70 million in suspicious charges. “This puts you in control of your money and helps you fight back, especially given all the data breaches,” Boykis says.

2. Key Ring. This app lets you store your rewards card numbers on your phone so you don’t end up missing out on discounts because you forgot your rewards card. “It lets you throw away all of the discount cards taking up space on your physical key ring,” says Lisa Koivu,​ contributor to the U.S. News Frugal Shopper blog and founder of ShopGirlDaily.com. “Now, since I always have my phone, I always have my discount cards.”

Koivu says she uses the app most at CVS, which also lets you load coupons onto your discount card online. On a recent trip, she saved 20 percent off her entire purchase with the coupons and card discounts.

3. Retailers’ apps. If you have a store you frequent often, then check to see if it has an app, because it could save you money on products you’re buying anyway. Koivu recommends the Target Cartwheel app and Shop Your Way app for Sears and Kmart, which offer exclusive discounts to shoppers.

4. Gift card apps. These apps, including GoWallet and Gyft, help keep you from ever forgetting or losing a gift card again. You can upload your cards onto the app and use it to track and redeem them. Like the Key Ring app, it lets you save even when traveling lightly, without all your cards.

5. Retail Me Not. This app means you never have to clip coupons out of Sunday circulars again. Instead, this app collects coupon codes for you, and lets you save your favorite stores for easier tracking. The best part is you don’t have to save a paper coupon at all. At checkout, just show the code on your phone to snag the deal.

6. Ebates. This app gives shoppers cash back for purchases and recently started offering users even better deals​ one Monday every month, dubbed Mobile Monday. The app lets shoppers earn cash back at more than 1,800 retailers, compare prices and track deals. Shoppers can get as much as 20% cash back on their Mobile Monday purchases.​

7. Park Whiz. If parking is eating up a big chunk of your monthly budget, then the Park Whiz app could be what you need to cut costs. It makes it easy to search – and reserve – nearby ​off-street parking. Available in 150 cities nationwide, it also offers discounts on garage parking (as well as open-air lots) and even find spots from private homeowners who have open spots available. “We work with parking providers to offer our drivers exclusive discounts only available through the service, sometimes up to 60 percent,” says Park Whiz spokesman Mason Pain​, who uses the app to lock in a low monthly parking rate for his own commute.

Depending on your shopping and driving habits, one of these apps could probably help you save – and help meet your financial goals for the year.

Download First Financial’s mobile banking app today! Our app provides convenient, easy, and secure banking and bill payment solutions right from your iPhone or Android device. You can even pay other people with the PopMoney feature in Bill Pay. Get 24/7 instant access to your First Financial account – including bill payment, make transfers, check your balances, find branch and ATM locations, and receive account alerts.*

*You must have an account at First Financial Federal Credit Union (serving Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ) and be enrolled in Online Banking, to use this application.

Article source written by Kimberly Palmer of US News.

5 Bad Credit Card Habits to Break Now

8044873-largeWe’ve all heard the advice: Use credit cards wisely. Still, knowing what’s smart and doing what’s smart can be two different things. And with an increasing number of U.S. young adults putting purchases on plastic – 57 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds say they use credit cards today, versus 48 percent in 2013, according to Mercator Advisory Group’s recent Customer Monitor Survey – that advice is worth repeating.

Are you guilty of any of the following five bad credit card habits? If you’re guilty of having any of these habits, it’s time to change your ways. Otherwise, stay far, far away from these behaviors:

1. Mindless charging. Some people use credit cards with the mindset that “it doesn’t count” if it’s paid for with plastic instead of cash. You need to think before you spend. You don’t want to have more than $100,000 in credit card debt and not qualify for a mortgage for your new home. Even if you’re able to clean up your credit enough to close on a home, you could face the possibility of foreclosure when trying to balance your credit card debt and your living expenses.

2. Paying only the minimum amount due. It’s understandable that if money’s tight, you may not feel like parting with hard-earned cents to pay down your credit card debt.

But you’re just hurting yourself in the long run. If you pay the minimum on credit cards, you’re extending the time period on everything that you buy. This is the main reason that people can build extraordinarily large credit card balances that they can’t hope to pay off. If you’re going to use your cards and carry revolving debt, you at least need to know that it’s going to be paid off within a time frame that works for you.

3. Adding to your revolving debt by making nonessential purchases. All revolving credit card debt should be avoided, of course. But if you’re carrying revolving debt on a credit card, and then your car breaks down, and you don’t have the money to pay a mechanic, you can make a good argument for whipping out your credit card.

You need that car to get to work, or to shuttle your kids around, and if you live in the suburbs or countryside, you probably don’t have a bus service to utilize. So, yes, getting the car fixed is essential. But buying a pair of shoes when you already have a closet full of them or going out to eat with a credit card that has revolving debt is a) problematic and b) not essential, says Albert Williams, a personal finance professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“This pay-later [plan] is really creating a loan that is interest-bearing,” Williams says. “This is a bad practice but people do it often.”

In other words, if you’re still paying off that mechanic six months from now, you probably won’t hate yourself. You needed that car fixed. If six months later, you’re still carrying debt on cheeseburgers, fries and shakes, every time you look at your credit card statement, you probably are going to experience indigestion.

4. Using your credit card for a cash advance. If you’re short on cash and you really want some actual bills in your wallet, it may be tempting to take out a little cash. But you might as well just rip it up. In fact, if you take out a cash advance from a credit card, not only will you pay interest, you may get a transaction fee, which could be as much as 5 percent of the cash advance.

You can pay back your credit card immediately, of course, if you get a cash advance that you immediately come to regret. But no matter what, you’ll end up paying the interest accrued on that cash – as well as the transaction fee.

5. Having too many credit cards. There are good reasons to have some credit cards, but it’s difficult to justify having lots of them.

Researchers say that the average number for most people with credit cards is four. However, once you get a credit card, you really have to live with it, since canceling the card can hurt your FICO score. That’s because a great deal of it is based on the equation of credit used over credit available. Try to have cards that equal the amount of credit that you can use and more importantly, can manage.

Leslie Tayne, a New York City-based attorney, debt specialist and author of the new book, “Life & Debt: A fresh approach to achieving financial wellness,” agrees that having too many credit cards is a bad habit consumers develop, thanks to all the store cards out there.

“I often see people with over 20 credit cards, all of which have balances,” she says. “This makes it hard to keep track of that many cards, for issuing payments on time.”

And balances, she adds, can quickly add up. That’s not to say that if you can replace your bad habits with good habits, you can’t benefit from these cards. “Store card discount incentives can be great if someone has a plan to pay off the balance,” Tayne says. And having a plan to pay off the plastic is generally the key to creating and maintaining good habits with credit cards. If all else fails, remember the universal rule of credit card usage: If you don’t pay it now, you’ll really pay for it later.

Don’t forget about our free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live!

Article source written by Geoff Williams of US News.